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Video/Media

Disney+ subscriber train slows down

After rocketing to the stratosphere, Disney+'s subscriber growth has fallen back to earth.

Launched back in November 2019, Disney's premium subscription VoD service ended fiscal Q2 with 103.6 million subscribers, well behind a forecast of 110 million. Disney+ crossed the 100 million subscriber mark in early March and added about 8.7 million subs worldwide since the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, average revenue per user on the Disney+ service ended Q2 at $3.99, down 29%, due largely to last year's launch of Disney+ Hotstar, a service in India operated by Star India that costs less than Disney+ does on a standalone basis in other markets around the world.

Disney+, which raised rates in late March, isn't the only major streaming service that has seen a slowdown in the early portion of 2021 following a pandemic-marked 2020 in which consumers flocked to SVoD services. Netflix, the king of SVoD with 207.64 million subscribers worldwide, saw its Q1 2021 subscriber gains fall short of expectations too.

Disney+'s subscriber results also reflected some of the recent results of Evercore ISI's latest "App Wrap" report for April, which found that Disney+ downloads decreased 29% year-over-year. However, Evercore ISI doesn't believe the dip raises any "fundamental concerns" about the service, as Disney is still ramping up content for Disney+, and because the service has not seen a significant market launch since November 2020's debut in Latin America.

Among other Disney-run streaming services, ESPN+ ended the period with 13.8 million subs, up from 7.8 million a year ago.

Hulu's total base (SVoD and Live TV) ended fiscal Q2 with 41.6 million customers, up from 32.1 million. Hulu's SVOD-only service ended Q2 with 37.8 million subs, up 31% year-over-year. Hulu's live TV offering now has 3.8 million subs, 15% better than a year-ago total of 3.3 million.

Although Disney+ didn't perform as well as anticipated in the quarter, the financial side of Disney's overall direct-to-consumer (DTC) business continues to improve. Total DTC revenues jumped 59%, to $4 billion, as operating losses improved to $290 million versus $805 million a year earlier. Disney attributed the shrinking losses to improved results at Hulu and, to a lesser extent, at ESPN+.

Total Disney Q2 revenues dipped 13%, to $15.61 billion, as the company's parks business continued to drag down results during the pandemic. The Mouse's parks business saw revenues fall 44%, to $3.2 billion.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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